July 8, 2017: ST. ELIZABETH, QUEEN (OF PORTUGAL)
July 8, 2017: ST. ELIZABETH, QUEEN (OF PORTUGAL), WIDOW
“I have found, O Lord, that thy judgments are just; thou hast humbled me by thy truths. Pierce my flesh with thy fear; thy commandments have made me tremble.”
O Most merciful God, who, amongst other admirable endowments, didst privilege blessed Elizabeth with the gift of making wars cease: grant, by her prayers, that after having enjoyed the peace, which we humbly crave in this mortal life, we may be received into everlasting bliss. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
In the footsteps of Margaret of Scotland and of Clotilde of France, a third Queen comes to shed her brightness on the sacred Cycle. Born at the southern extremity of Christendom, where it borders on Mussulman lands, she was destined by the Holy Ghost to seal with peace the victories of Christ, and prepare the way for fresh conquests. The blessed name of Elizabeth, which for half a century had been rejoicing the world with its sweet perfume, was given to her, foretelling that this new-born child, as though attracted by the roses which fell from the mantle of her Thuringian aunt (St. Elizabeth, Duchess of Thuringia, a.k.a St. Elizabeth of Hungary), was to cause these same heavenly flowers to blossom in Iberia.
There is a mysterious heirship among the saints of God. The same year in which one niece of Elizabeth of Thuringia was born in Spain, another, the Blessed Margaret of Hungary, took her flight to heaven. She had been consecrated to God from her mother's womb, as a pledge for the salvation of her people, in the midst of terrible disasters; and the hopes so early centred in her were not frustrated. A short life of twenty-eight years spent in innocence and prayer, earned for her country the blessings of peace and civilization; and then Margaret bequeathed to our Saint of to-day the mission of continuing in another land the work of her holy predecessors.
The time had come for our Lord to shed a ray of His grace upon Spain. The thirteenth century was closing, leaving the world in a state of dismemberment and ruin. Weary of fighting for Christ, kings dismissed the Church from their councils, and selfishly kept aloof, preferring their own ambitious strifes to the common aspiration of the once great body of Christendom. Such a state of things was disastrous for the entire West; much more, then, for that noble country where the Crusade had multiplied kingdoms as so many outposts against the common enemy, the Moors. Unity of views and the sacrifice of all things to the great work of deliverance could alone maintain in the successors of Pelayo the spirit of the grand memories of yore. Unfortunately these princes, though heroes on the battle-field, had not sufficient strength of mind to lay aside their petty quarrels and take up the sacred duty entrusted to them by Providence. In vain did the Roman Pontiff strive to awaken them to the interests of their country and of the Christian name; these hearts, generous in other respects, were too stifled by miserable passions to heed his voice; and the Mussulman looked on delightedly at these intestine strifes, which retarded his own defeat. Navarre, Castile, Aragon, and Portugal were not only at war with each other; but even within each of these kingdoms, father and son were at enmity, and brother disputed with brother, inch by inch, the heritage of his ancestors.
Who was to restore to Spain the still recent traditions of her Ferdinand III? Who was to gather again these dissentient wills into one, so as to make them a terror to the Saracen and a glory to Christ? James I of Aragon, who rivalled St. Ferdinand both in bravery and in conquests, had married Yoland, daughter of Andrew of Hungary; whereupon the cultus of the holy Duchess of Thuringia, whose brother-in-law he had thus become, was introduced beyond the Pyrenees; and the name of Elizabeth, changed in most cases into Isabel, became, as it were, a family jewel with which the Spanish princesses have loved to be adorned. The first to bear it was the daughter of James and Yoland, who married Philip III of France, successor of St. Louis; the second was the grand-daughter of the same James I, the Saint whom the Church honours to-day, and of whom the old king, with prophetic insight, loved to say, that she would surpass all the women of the race of Aragon.
Inheriting not only the name, but also the virtues of the “dear St. Elizabeth,” she would one day deserve to be called “the mother of peace and of her country.” By means of her heroic self-renunciation and all-powerful prayer, she repressed the lamentable quarrels of princes. One day, unable to prevent peace being broken, she cast herself between two contending armies under a very hailstorm of arrows, and so forced the soldiers to lay down their fratricidal arms. Thus she paved the way for the happy event, which she herself was not to have the consolation of seeing: the re-organisation of that great enterprise for the expulsion of the Moors, which was not to close till the following century under the auspices of another Isabel, her worthy descendant, who would add to her name the beautiful title of “the Catholic.” Four years after Elizabeth's death, the victory of Salado was gained by the united armies of all Spain over 600,000 infidels, showing how a woman could, under most adverse circumstances, inaugurate a brilliant Crusade, to the immortal fame of her country.
Following is the narrative of St. Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal, given us by the Church, for this day.
Elizabeth, of the royal race of Aragon, was born in the year of our Lord 1271. As a presage of her future sanctity, her parents, contrary to custom, passing over the mother and grandmother, gave her in Baptism the name of her maternal great-aunt, St. Elizabeth, Duchess of Thuringia. No sooner was she born, than it became evident what a blessed peacemaker she was to be between kings and kingdoms; for the joy of her birth put a happy period to the miserable quarrels of her father and grandfather. As she grew up, her father, admiring the natural abilities of his daughter, was wont to assert that Elizabeth would far outstrip in virtue all the women descended of the royal blood of Aragon; and so great was his veneration for her heavenly manner of life, her contempt of worldly ornaments, her abhorrence of pleasure, her assiduity in fasting, prayer, and works of charity, that he attributed to her merits alone the prosperity of his kingdom and estate. On account of her wide-spread reputation, her hand was sought by many princes; at length she was, with all the ceremonies of holy Church, united in matrimony with Dionysius, king of Portugal.
In the married state she gave herself up to the exercise of virtue and the education of her children, striving, indeed, to please her husband, but still more to please God. For nearly half the year she lived on bread and water alone; and, on one occasion when, in an illness, she had refused to take the wine prescribed by the physician, her water was miraculously changed into wine. She instantaneously cured a poor woman of a loathsome ulcer by kissing it. In the depth of winter she changed the money she was going to distribute to the poor into roses, in order to conceal it from the king. She gave sight to a virgin born blind, healed many other persons of grievous distempers by the mere sign of the Cross, and performed a great number of other miracles of a like nature. She built and amply endowed monasteries, hospitals, and churches. She was admirable for her zeal in composing the differences of kings, and unwearied in her efforts to alleviate the public and private miseries of mankind.
After the death of King Dionysius, Elizabeth, who had been in her youth a model to virgins, and in her married life to wives, became in her solitude a pattern of all virtues to widows. She immediately put on the religious habit of St. Clare, assisted with the greatest fortitude at the king's funeral, and then, proceeding to Compostella, offered there for the repose of his soul a quantity of silk, silver, gold, and precious stones. On her return home she consumed in holy and pious works all she had that was dear and precious to her; she completed the building of her truly royal monastery of virgins at Coimbra; and, wholly engaged in feeding the poor, protecting widows, sheltering orphans, and assisting the afflicted in every way, she lived not for herself, but for the glory of God and the well-being of men. On her way to the noble town of Estremoz, whither she was going in order to make peace between the two kings, her son and son-in-law, she was seized with illness; and, in that town, after having been visited by the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, she died a most holy death, on the 4th day of July, in the year 1336. After death she was glorified by many miracles, especially by the sweet fragrance of her body, which has remained incorrupt for nearly three hundred years; and she is always distinguished by the name of the “holy queen.” At length, in the year of jubilee, of our salvation 1625, with the unanimous applause of the assembled Christian world, she was solemnly enrolled among the Saints by Pope Urban VIII.
Taken from: The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II,
The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901.
Pray for us St. Elizabeth;
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.